If a heavy metal was a movie genre, it would be horror. Both art forms share more than a few thematic similarities as they examine the dark side of the human (and inhuman) condition, and both attract an obsessive fan base. Rock stars regularly proclaim their love of the genre — some are avid memorabilia collectors, others have taken turns directing, and many have contributed some killer music to films. At Revolver we've examined the greatest horror villains, best-ever sequels, and horror movie soundtracks. But there was one unanswered question that loomed large: What is the single greatest horror movie of all time? Once again we looked to our readers, and once again you came through. See your picks in the ranked list below.
Over 40 years later, the sights and terrors found in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are still as disturbing and unflinching as they were upon the film's original release. The brutality in the movie doesn't just rely on the bloodletting, it also arrives through the excruciating tension that steadily builds over the course of the entire film — each kill from Leatherface adding up to a truly terrifying finale. The movie is particularly horrifying in the realistic way it presents evil as a commonplace phenomenon; the fact that Leatherface has a family (twisted as they are) makes everything infinitely more disturbing than if he was a supernatural creature.
A truly great horror film is inherently way more than a vehicle to show blood and guts — it should repulse, but also be wrought with suspense.The Thing is basically a glorified (and gory-fied) film version of Clue, but it wouldn't be anything without the brilliant, intense direction and scoring of John Carpenter. Between Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell, who delivers one of his greatest film performances, The Thing is a certified horror classic.
While all films on this list are scary, only one has the distinction of being true cinematic genius, helmed by one of the greatest directors of all time. Stanley Kubrick's masterful telling of The Shining (which was controversial in its time due to liberties taken from Stephen King's source material) is not only beautifully shot and told, but it's also superbly acted by Jack Nicholson, who plays the movie's unraveling father-turned–axe murderer.
Director/composer John Carpenter might have just been "trying to make a little exploitation horror movie," but what he came up with changed the slasher game. His 1978 film Halloween — and its deranged serial killer Michael Myers — became a generation-spanning pop-culture classic and serious box office earner (that also launched the career of now-household name Jamie Lee Curtis in the process). It's hard to understate the importance of the Halloween franchise and its ripples throughout the horror world. With nearly a dozen sequels and remakes, countless slashers created in its wake, and the popularization of the "final girl" trope, Halloween is sure to keep scaring promiscuous teens and trick-or-treating kids for decades to come.
The Exorcist, like so many paradigm-shifting films on this list, made a name for itself by not only terrifying audiences to the point of hysteria and sickness, but by carving a new channel in the psyche of filmgoers that played on socially ingrained religious tropes of good vs. evil and manipulated viewers' remnant memories of childhood innocence and vulnerability. An utter lack of protection available by those we deem most trustworthy —parents, clergy, authority — makes for one of the most unsettling cinematic experiences of all time, and one that launched a thousand embarrassing ripoffs, none of which would ever prove half as chilling. With a story based on a real life tale and a notoriously "cursed" shoot, The Exorcist will almost surely never be topped in its ability to scare.